Living in paradise comes with a price

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald

Column By Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin

Picturesque views of sky, sea, and sand. Oceanic experiences with wet creatures, lush vegetation, and tropical trends. Soothing sounds, salty smells, and savory seafood. A hammock, a book, and a cold beverage. Ahhh. “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water,” affirmed Loren Eiseley.

What is your “beach personality?” An article in Coastal Living labeled the types: Beach Bums, Water Bugs, Nature Lovers, Boat Crew, Cultured Pearls, Fishing Buddies, and Golf Club.

According to a 2013 study in the journal Health & Place, individuals reported significantly better general health and mental health when living nearer the coast.” Maybe that’s why many seek out coastal regions to pitch their tents.

”At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides and follow the sun,” confirmed Sandy Gingras.

While tourists flock to beaches for summer vacations, others choose permanent residence on shoreline real estate. Some are natives and some are transplants.

But, death is the ultimate price that some pay for living in paradise. Coastal dreamland’s of sandy beaches, sunny days, and splendid ocean views destroy people and demolish properties during and after hurricanes. Wind and waves devastate dwellings when nature turns deadly. Flood insurance premiums increase and paradise becomes more expensive.

Hurricane Michael recently ravaged the town called Mexico Beach in Florida. The storm certainly surged on that part of the Florida Panhandle and beyond. Damaging winds knocked out power to over 1 million customers. The word “catastrophic” is being used. The Weather Channel depicted the damage after the landfall, while behind the forecaster crew the calm waves lapped the shore and the sun warmed the sand. Mother nature had unclenched her fists.

Hurricane Michael has just joined the deadly hurricane club. It’s being called a historic Category 4. “At least 18 deaths have been blamed on the powerful storm – eight in Florida, three in North Carolina, one in Georgia and six in Virginia.”

On the morning of 10 September 2017, Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane. Tourism is down and towns are still recovering.

Many surf-side areas in the United States are known for tropical waves, tropical storms, and tropical cyclones; storm surges and flooding; damage and destruction. Nonetheless, residents rebuilt as if their feet are cemented to the shifting sand.

So why do humans flock to shorelines? What power do wooing waters hold over humanity? Why do coastal homeowners risk pain to find pleasure? Oceanfront, lakefront, riverfront — water seems to soothe the soul. “Water is the driving force of all nature,” surmised Leonardo da Vinci.

I treasure my Myrtle Beach memories. The Outer Banks and Cape Cod beaches are exquisite places on our blue planet. Emilia Wickstead avowed, “To escape and sit quietly on the beach – that’s my idea of paradise.” I agree with her.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald

“It’s no secret why so many of us choose to live in coastal regions. These are areas of great bounty and beauty. The downside? These areas are also prone to many natural hazards such as erosion, harmful algal blooms, big storms, flooding, tsunamis, and sea level rise.” That’s according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

However, according to a 2016 article in the New York Times, “Rising sea levels are changing the way people think about waterfront real estate. Though demand remains strong and developers continue to build near the water in many coastal cities, homeowners across the nation are slowly growing wary of buying property in areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.”

Island Hunters is House Hunters (HGTV reality show) focusing on American buyers moving to tropical islands. They seek and find homes located on a foreign sandy beachfront. The lure of warm climates and salty waters continue to entice humans to experience a vacationer lifestyle abroad.

The price of living in Paradise rang true with the images of Hurricane Maria as the wind and surge blasted Puerto Rico, Dominica, and the northeastern Caribbean.

Instead of living in paradise, maybe I’ll just build a Koi pond in my backyard or surf the Ohio River.

 Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Southern Ohio. Contact her at